“Anne Teresa is really a great composer,” Mr. Sanchis said on the phone from Philadelphia, where “A Love Supreme” was running at FringeArts Theater. “She doesn’t spend time on each minute movement; she is concerned with the timeline and composition.”
Over coffee here, the morning after opening night of the Paris Opera’s “Così Fan Tutti,” which she both directed and choreographed, Ms. De Keersmaeker said she had come relatively late in her career to jazz. “In 2000 I was introduced to Coltrane’s music by friends who were jazz musicians,” she said. “I discovered the brilliant virtuosity, the extreme obsession, his interest in Eastern music, the discovery of the saxophone as a speaking voice.”
Mr. Reich, she added, had also talked to her about Coltrane. “Steve spoke about how Coltrane would use three notes and improvise endlessly on that; maximalizing the minimum. That made a big impression.”
Ms. De Keersmaeker’s growing interest in the music of Davis and Coltrane coincided with the first years of Parts, the professional training school that she founded at her company’s Brussels headquarters in 1995. Many of the teachers there, she said, were interested in improvisation as a tool to create dance vocabulary and for use in performance.
“My reference points are so tight, I was so into strategic composition, and then here was instant dance, which fascinated me,” she said. “And of course jazz is where improvisation is part of the DNA of the music.”
Enter the Spanish-born Mr. Sanchis, who was one of the first students at Parts, and who joined Ms. De Keersmaeker’s company, Rosas, as she began to work on “Witches Brew.” Because he was injured while she was making it, he found himself sitting next to her at rehearsals, talking about the decisions she was making. In 2005, he created a solo to a Coltrane piece for her work “Desh.” Soon after, she asked him to collaborate on “A Love Supreme.”
Ms. De Keersmaeker is famously exacting. Was he intimidated?
“A little,” Mr. Sanchis said. Ms. De Keersmaeker, he added, “is a very strong person and artist, but also a huge collaborator. Of course there are moments when her decisions won’t be changed, but she knows her strengths and limitations, and she never hesitates in giving responsibility to people if…